The beluga Hvaldimir, discovered four years ago, is now off the west coast of Sweden, wearing a strange harness that has raised suspicions that it was used by the Russian navy. An NGO following his movements reported this.
Spotted for the first time in the waters of the Norwegian Arctic in 2019, this multi-meter long white cetacean gets its name from a combination of whale (“hval”, in Norwegian) and the iconic Russian first name “Vladimir”. .
After being spotted in the Oslo fjord in recent days, it was spotted further south in the North Sea on Sunday at Hunnebostrand on the Swedish west coast, Sebastian Strand of the OneWhale organization told AFP.
He is heading south
After three years of slowly moving from northern Norway, for some inexplicable reason, he has been heading south in recent months.
“At the moment we don’t know why it’s moving so fast”, especially since “it’s moving away from its natural environment”, the marine biologist underlined.
“Hormones may prompt him to find a mate. Or he may be lonely. Because belugas are very social, he may be looking for others.”
“Equipment St. Petersburg”
Estimated to be between 13 and 14 years old, “Hvaldimir” was spotted in April 2019 in the Arctic region of Finnmark in Norway’s far north.
Biologists approached him and removed the harness around his head. It was equipped with a base for a small camera with the words “Equipment St.Peterburg” printed in English on plastic straps.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries speculated at the time that Hvaldimir escaped from a pen and was towed away by the Russian navy because of his tendency to approach human company and ships.
Moscow had no comment
Moscow has not officially commented on the speculation. Beluga whales traditionally live further north, near Greenland, or in the waters of the Russian or Norwegian Arctic.
The Barents Sea and the North Atlantic are strategic areas for both the Western and Russian navies, a regular contact zone for their submarines.
According to Sebastian Strand, Hvaldimir has appeared healthy in recent years, eating fish inspired by large salmon farms raised in Norway.
But OneWhale is concerned that he will be able to find food where he is, saying he has already seen signs of weight loss.
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